Friday, September 2, 2016

A Tip of the Hat

Today is the memorial service for my Dad.  So I thought I would share a story that encapsulates the essence of George Gant, the man who raised me.

I’m taking a practice SAT in September of my Sophomore year in high school. To make the class challenging, I’ve started taking the practice SAT’s for speed. The teacher for the class is insecure, not very bright, and not at all quick.  As such she is of zero use to me.  Which through my actions is abundantly clear.  Our relationship is not good.

I’m self-grading my most recent practice SAT at my desk, when I realize that I made a stupid mistake that cost me one question.  Under my breath I say, “That sucks.”

I don’t know that the teacher was walking behind me at that very time.  She says nothing. Two days later, she calls me to her desk and hands me an office referral. I’m to report to my assistant principal for using profanity in the classroom.  Confused, I ask when this happened. She says, “Read the referral.”

While working on the assignment, Sean used profanity.  He said, “This sucks.” This behavior and language is not tolerated in my class.

So off to the office I go.  The Assistant Principal reads that referral and asks, “Did you direct the comment at your teacher.”

“No, I didn’t even know she was there.”

“OK. Two pops or I call your parents.”

This is a smart AP. He’s thinking, “Let’s solve this little issue quick and move on.”

“I shouldn’t be in trouble for this. It’s nothing. Call my mom.”

The AP sends me out to wait while he calls my Mom.  He brings me back in to tell me that Mom not available, but Dad is on the way.

Oops.  Dad’s a soldier. Dad’s a construction worker.  Dad believes in discipline. Dad believes in taking care of your business. Dad is not a fan of stupidity.

Dad shows up. The teacher is called down to the office.  Now there are four of us in the AP’s office.  The AP asks the teacher to explain the situation. She does.  He asks her if she felt as if I was directing the offending statement at her. She did not.  The AP asks for my side of the story. I say that it went down just like the teacher described it.

The AP is uncomfortable.  He asks the teacher what she thinks should happen. She thinks D-hall is a good idea.  The AP sees an out.  “Well, if Sean goes to D-Hall he won’t be able to play in the game this week.”

No Dad is going to agree to that, there will be a compromise and the whole issue will be solved.

“Mr. Gant, do you think that is a reasonable consequence based on what you have heard?”

My Dad waits a beat, looks at everybody in the room.  At this point there is no question that he is in charge.  “Here’s what I think. If there are rules about the use of profanity in class and you consider what Sean said to be profanity, then he’s going to face the consequence. If he misses the game, that is do to his actions. Disrespect in the classroom is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Again he pauses.  He looks at the teacher, she looks away.  He looks at the AP, who is just nodding. He looks at me and as smooth as any lawyer in a courtroom says, “But Sean, I’m telling you if I ever get called off the job again for something you say in class... it better be because you said F**K.”

And with that he stood up, told me he would see me at home and left.

Home consequence: “Don’t waste my time being an idiot again.”

School consequence: Two days D-hall and a missed game.  And my AP and me had an agreement for the rest of my High School career. We would handle my school discipline issues just between us and leave my Dad out of it.

That was the genius of my Dad and how he was able to orchestrate almost any situation to meet his desired outcome. In less than 60 seconds, (1) the teacher got his support; (2) his smart-aleck kid learned the real-life lesson that sometimes the consequence far outweighs the crime; (3) and the AP got the rubric for determining what level of behavior required his consultation.  


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